13 November 2002


Press Release

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

Second Committee



Stresses Need to Keep Goals Out of UN 'Alphabet Soup'

The best news in centuries for poor countries would be to hear that the Millennium goals were actually being implemented, Eveline Herfkens, the Secretary-General’s Executive Coordinator for the Millennium Development Goal Campaign, told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) this afternoon.

Speaking during a panel discussion on the theme “Integrated Follow-up of Conferences –- Millennium Summit, Doha, Monterrey, Johannesburg –- and the Millennium Development Goals”, Ms. Herfkens stressed that the main problem would be to keep the Millennium goals from becoming part of the United Nations "alphabet soup".  They must be placed on the public agenda, so that parliaments and civil society could pester governments about making them happen.

She said the Millennium goals were a perfect yardstick for measuring progress in all sectors, whether debt, foreign investment or trade.  Doha was called a Development Agenda, but the international community had yet to see whether the World Trade Organization (WTO) would contribute to halving the number of poor people by 2015, giving developing countries access to world markets, or making medicines more affordable.  The Monterrey Conference had been a breakthrough where the contract idea of mutual obligation had first emerged, she added.

Kipkorir Aly Rana, Deputy Director-General of the WTO, agreed that the four major international meetings must now transform intent into practical outcomes, with the Millennium goals as the central focus.  The Doha commitment on market access had offered prospects for valuable new trade opportunities, and its plan to eliminate tariffs on goods and services, as well as tariff peaks, would enhance growth in the developing world.

Doha had also responded to concerns about access to drugs for treating such contagious diseases as HIV/AIDS in the developing world, he went on.  WTO members were currently working in Geneva to meet the 1 December deadline on compulsory licensing, which should help cut drug prices, making medicines available to those most in need.  Other agreements reached at Doha, especially those on duty-free market access for the least developed countries (LDCs) and on technologies, would help integrate developing countries into the world trading system, he added.

Aziz Ali Mohammed, Advisor to the Chairman of the G-24 (a subset of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China on monetary issues), said that the Monterrey Conference had built development into global finance.  Addressing the issue of resource transfer, he said a major problem was that private resource flows had remained concentrated in a few countries, avoiding those sectors where gains were slow, such as infrastructure.  Moreover, private flows had dropped sharply over the past few years, which would have long-range implications for development.

He noted that, while Monterrey had obtained additional official development assistance (ODA) commitments from developed countries, some ambiguity had arisen over the uses of those resources, such as debt-servicing, humanitarian needs and restructuring in war-ravaged economies.  Asking what would remain for productive investment, he emphasized the need to address that issue in the coming months as a follow-up to Monterrey.

Desighen Naidoo, Chief Director of South Africa's Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, referred to the four conferences as “incredible meetings”, representing global strategic planning for sustainable development.  The challenge now was to convert them into a business plan for implementation, which, together with monitoring and evaluation, would complete the cycle.

He said that the Johannesburg discussions on the Millennium goals had been rich in trying to tease out the meaning of implementation and how it could be made to happen.  Other issues on which the Johannesburg Summit had focused included good governance at all levels, institutional reform to kick-start sustainable development, better inter-institutional relationships and increased access to decision-making.

Panel moderator Nitin Desai, Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, noted in his introductory remarks that several influential conferences had been held during the 1990s, but those under discussion had occurred after 2000.  That second generation had focused more on implementation, and the question now was how to integrate that implementation.

Asked in the ensuing discussion whether current pressure by developed nations to dismiss proposals on low-cost medicine in WTO negotiations would weaken implementation of the Millennium goals, Mr. Rana said rich countries with large ageing populations wanted access to cheap medicines as much as did developing countries.

More difficult issues concerned agriculture, he said, particularly special and differential treatment, market access and tariff escalation.  Negotiators, for example, must consider multiple views on cocoa policy, he said, noting that Côte d’Ivoire produced 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa crop, but due to high tariffs, 90 per cent of its children could not afford to eat chocolate.

Mr. Rana agreed with several representatives about the lack of transparency in WTO decision-making, involving so-called “green room” informal discussions on many issues.  The WTO was working to create a more even representation of its general membership in the voting process, he said, although its current one-country-one-vote system was suitable.

Asked about the importance of capacity development, he replied that the WTO was most concerned with training trade negotiators in services and agriculture, so that they could participate fully in negotiations, a central theme of the Doha Development Agenda.  The 2003 technical assistance budget included substantial funding for training, he added.

Agreeing with several representatives that implementation of the Millennium goals should occur outside the United Nations, Ms. Herfkens said that parliaments, civil society organizations and private sectors in individual countries would be chiefly responsible for implementing the goals.  Public opinion polls could motivate countries to carry out the Millennium goals, she added. 

As to whether there should be greater development activity between international financial institutions in Washington and the United Nations, she said that both groups together should intensify the mainstreaming of the Millennium goals.  The World Bank headquarters in Washington, D.C., was a gold mine of information on country performance as well as on the impact of agricultural subsidies and tariffs on developing economies.

Mr. Ali Mohammed pointed out that there was also a greater need for international agencies to work more closely with civil society organizations in achieving the Millennium goals.  For example, civil society was largely responsible for most of the progress in debt relief, while the United Nations could influence multilateral agencies to take part in more effective dialogue with civil society.

Speakers during the discussion included the representatives of the Netherlands, Cameroon, Egypt, South Africa, United States, Pakistan, Mexico, Jamaica, Bolivia, Dominican Republic, India, Iran, Ghana and Denmark.

The Second Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 14 November, to continue its consideration of the environment and sustainable development.

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For information media. Not an official record.